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Restaurants Fight Back Against Lockdowns: The 'Convenient Scapegoat'

Restaurants Fight Back Against Lockdowns: The 'Convenient Scapegoat'

The National Restaurant Association is pushing back against new dine-in restrictions across the U.S. by arguing theres' a "lack of scientific evidence" that correlates restaurants with increased COVID-19 cases.

New Coronavirus Restrictions: The number of cities and states introducing new restrictions impacting the restaurant industry is  growing by the day.

Last week, Oregon introduced a two-week ban on all dine-in eating, and San Francisco put an indefinite pause to indoor dining and bars.

Benzinga's home base of Detroit is one of the cities facing reintroduced restrictions. As of Wednesday, restaurants and bars are restricted to outdoor dining, takeout and delivery in Michigan, where coronavirus cases are exploding.

Similar trends are playing out worldwide. Restaurants in Montreal, Canada have been closed for all dine-in service since Oct. 1 and there is no timeline for reopening. Pubs and restaurants across England are closed to diners until at least Dec. 2.

Related Link: NYC Restaurant Lobby Group Implores Cuomo To 'Publicly Justify' New Curfew

Inaccurate 'Scapegoat' Title: The National Restaurant Association wrote a public letter to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The association said it has not been able to identify "any systemic outbreaks" of COVID-19 among the hundreds of thousands of restaurants across the U.S. that follow local public health and safety regulations.

To date, government bodies have yet to show any data tying systemic community outbreaks to restaurants, the letter said.

As such, concluding that restaurants contribute to major clusters of infection has made the industry "a convenient scapegoat for reflective shutdowns."

Cities Join The Fight: The Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association and other hospitality advocacy groups are suing the state seeking to reverse its decision to close indoor dining, according to the Detroit Free Press.

The lawsuit argues that restaurants have "shown themselves highly capable" of following all the health and safety regulations for several months. It is not clear why it is not legal to eat a meal indoors, but it is legal to get a tattoo or haircut indoors, according to the lawsuit. 

The state's orders are in violation of Fifth and 14th Amendment rights and the separation of powers and non-delegation clause in the Michigan Constitution, the group said. 

'Time Is Running Out': Many restaurants simply can't survive much longer amid ongoing restrictions and the absence of financial support from the federal government, Amanda Cohen, chef and owner of NYC restaurant Dirt Candy, said during a Wednesday morning CNBC interview.

The reality is that "time is running out" for many restaurants, especially ahead of the end of outdoor dining in regions entering the cold season.

Restaurant owners are seeing their savings "dwindling," and this is compounded on top of the "mental toll" of trying to survive, she said. 

Anecdotally, the restaurant owner said her revenue is down from $12,000 a night to $3,000 a night, but her rent and insurance costs have not budged. At the same time, the restaurant's electric and gas bill is "skyrocketing."

The prospect of closing shop until the weather turns nice next year is impossible, because rent and other fixed costs will still need to be paid, Cohen said. 

"Closing up isn't necessarily the best option." 


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